THE FUTURE IS RUSHING UPON US
We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.
Friday, February 10, 2012
The graying of the Northern Hemisphere is a unique historical social event much like agricultural or industrial revolutions were. Besides creating a massive demand (and eventually breakthroughs) for life extension and bio-cybernetic repair/augmentation technologies, the elderly in the world (and particularly in the Western world) also create a particular problem of adjustment.
Transition to a more technocratic, collaborative, cooperative, and supranational global arrangement will prove psychologically difficult for baby boomers in North America and within allied developed nations. In United States for instance, the numbers of people over the age of 62 are 50 million of which 41 million are over 65. The numbers of people in 18-24 block (that tends to be most aggressive and politically unclouded) are 30.7 million. In essence we have 41 million status quo force versus 31 million change agents.
The numbers of 25-44 olds are 82 million and those under 18 years of age are 74 million (of which 54 million are in 5-17 age range).
This simply means that when it comes to political struggles and domination, the 50 million boomer block only has 82 million people to try to coopt/use as reserve while the 31 million Millennial block has BOTH the 82 million to draw from (unconverted bitter Gen Xers) AND has a loyal reserve force of 54 million hyper tech savy individuals about to come online politically. It'll come down to boomer block using entrenched economic heights to slow socioeconomic change via quantity of money, experience, and established informational controls versus more mobile Millennial block accelerating change via quality of informational approaches and technological knowhow.
We can thus expect to see dramatic rise in the use of coping mechanisms among the elderly as they rapidly lose political power. We already see a rise in alcohol/comfort food abuse among those living deeper in the countryside and we saw a rare rise in annual boomer mortality in 2008 after the clear decline of Reaganism and election of a non-traditional appearing Gen-Exer. Previously such rare peculiar annual reversals in (usually declining) mortality occurred after the end of FDRism in the late 1970s.
During Soviet transition towards something else in the 1990s, there was the predictable decline in life expectancy primarily centered on the elderly. To prevent a similar demographic catastrophe and tragedy in the Western world (especially in USA since the notion of empire plays a large role in the ego and self esteem of the boomer population), preventive measures need to be thought of in advance.
The clinics need to be small, brand new and utilize environmental cues and marketing the way some pharmacies like Rite Aid have been using lately. Following Rite Aid's example, it is also prudent to localize the atmosphere of such clinics. Getting local community religious leaders involved can for instance result in southern regions having pleasant clinics with religious literature/themes, northwestern clinics having a more hippy feel, etc. The important thing is to preserve psychological sanity and thus life expectancy of the most vulnerable demographic block during a period of very rapid cultural and economic transition.
Major movie studios can be helpful in this effort by working with the government to produce a few all star cast informational movies which indirectly emphasize the benefits of these new clinics (love story taking place there, some drama of a person having a life turn around after multivitamin injections/blood oxygenation, etc). And of course it is easy to locate and pay a few major boomer role models to advocate these clinics via stories of personal use (Oprah, some former "bad boy" actor, etc).
Getting inside a clinic can require "tickets" (bringing to mind a celebratory event) and local governments can use lottery system for additional marketing (winning to go to specialized clinic in a luxurious region of the country while emphasizing there is one nearby). Even within the capitalist framework, incentives can be provided so people earn points on purchase of healthy food to get additional trips to the clinics (above the standard number of provided tickets).
Starting to think of providing services like this is essential to reverse current depression born increase in mortality among boomers (1.6+ million a year currently). Informational and psychological counseling via television can also provide continuity between prior imperial era and the world of tomorrow. Russians and British have some experience with this. Moscow has been staging military parades recently to provide some cognitive continuity for the elderly while London uses the monarchy for that purpose. Future youthful American political leadership may think of linking FDRist, religious, and Reaganist themes to the technocratic developments that the post-Millennial generation will be engaging in.
In parallel however, top down informational campaigns should gradually begin to de-emphasize prior imperial propaganda of militarism and other less savory aspects of the 20th century socioeconomic system that existed. Once again, Hollywood and cooperative younger religious leaders should be heavily used.
If management of the declining boomer population is done in a very restrained, humane, and methodical manner, besides averting a humanitarian catastrophe, a large portion of retired intuitive boomers can even be made to serve the national technocratic interest in the future (by minimum of not standing in the way of progress and maximum of encouraging it via word of mouth among peers).
It is election year in America and 18.3 million voters that matter are beginning to get involved in the future of planetary development:
(16 million households with $100,000-$1 million in assets worth $5.6 trillion total
2.2 million households with $1 million-$10 million in assets worth $6 trillion total
100,000 households with $10 million+ in assets worth $2.2 trillion total)
The other 96 million household block with less than $100,000 in assets worth $3.4 trillion total generally takes political cues from the movers/community role models and doesn't have enough cohesion and purchasing power to afford favors from the white house.
The Pragmatist was started in 2009, shortly after 16 million small time shareholder households showed surprising mobilization (possibly indirectly helped by factions in the military that got truly scared by the long term implications of the financial crisis and who thought McCain wont be prudent). Time to look back and see what this magazine got right, what wrong, and where we are today.
Obama had compared steering United States to making very small degree changes in direction of a large cruise ship. Short term, nothing appears to change but on a 2-3 decade horizon, tiny movements of the wheel to the left or right can bring the ship to surprisingly different destinations. The intensity of elite factions fighting over this wheel (and therefore their small shareholder auxiliaries/proxies also fighting) has been intensifying in first 2 years as predicted. However, The Pragmatist dramatically underestimated just how paralyzing and intense it got (troubling intra elite infighting that we haven't seen since the 1850s).
Scramble for resources saw well publicized spats between California and Texas, gridlock among shareholders' representatives in Congress to the point of using default as a bargaining chip(!), popular 4 star general fired for assuming resources for Afghanistan will continue indefinitely, Lockheed Martin relocating headquarters from California to DC, and CNN totally joining with NBC as propaganda outlet of the shareholder faction in control of the White House currently.
It also appears that the White House was either unable or too incompetent to provide enough favors to friendly elite factions in swing states to aid in reelection (the Mormon from Detroit leads by 1% on average in swing states while the 16 battleground states have had an average 16% drop in housing prices without much specifically focused federal help).
A process had also began to tighten the bolts in the engine room. We saw Putin-esque negotiating practices between federal center of force and auto industry, private deal making with British Petroleum, and getting the 5 major banks to throw $25 billion to settle the fraudclosure investigation. Board of Bank of America alone handed over $12 billion to get feds off their backs. We even had Robert Gates begin to crackdown on business tie corruption among retired generals. It doesn't matter whether the executive branch finally has more room to maneuver or has been purposefully goaded to become more forceful, the fact remains that things are now moving along a bit quicker.
The Pragmatist predicted that IF Federal center of force:
a) does not attempt some sort of debt restructuring before 2012 elections and
b) does not purposefully and methodically begin the road towards emulating Germany's hybrid mid level state capitalist system (where major business shareholders, labor, and state always sit around the table to jointly negotiate national strategy)
THEN we may see social instability rise dramatically which would then make purposeful recovery and lifting of the plane into new heights a lot more difficult longer term (by late 2020s).
As for a), the feds have 1.1 trillion shortfall to fund this year and are getting creative again by announcing plans to introduce brand new floating rate treasury bills to try to bring new investors that are not currently content with near zero interest. Real meaningful debt restructuring is not talked about as there appears to be a wait and see attitude in terms of trying to outlast the Eurozone.
As for b), the recent state of the union speech hinted at the federal government becoming the navigator, enabler, conditional supporter, and even occasional manager of large business. Interesting proposals are mandating that high schoolers legally remain in school until age of consent and pushing companies to cooperate with local governments to begin blue collar training in while in school. It demonstrates that American elites have truly run out of their own ideas and are now resorting to catch up copying efforts of FDRist elite clusters in other parts of the developed world, (ironic if not tragic considering Washington DC educated and pushed more advanced FDRism on Germany and Japan).
Here's a small example of the process happening in many parts of the world. Whether Japanese are telling to leave while allowing US to save face or US leaving while conveniently developing difficulties in maintaining imperial presence is irrelevant. The causal flux is hard to disentangle. What matters is that DC is finding ways/reasons to reduce spending.)
Obviously many high net worth shareholders in places like Texas will not be happy with a strategic shift towards a more German/French/ style capitalism. Their frustrations are further compounded by the total disintegration of GOP as a national party (which is being demonstrated in the current primary race by regional shareholder clans pushing their candidates to the last and possibly towards brokered convention and oblivion). The frustration becomes even more acute considering the dramatic demographic and economic shift to the south and west away from the regions of traditional power (northeast and north in general). It is not too far fetched that the financial backers from newly empowered states may ask their political appointees to seek greater economic autonomy for a number of states. It'll be interesting to see how accommodating the feds will be if Obama is reelected (even FDRist federal Germany has states like Bavaria whose shareholders are allowed to run their business a lot more freely from directives of Berlin).
So that's 2012 for now. Lots of egos involved and real economic recovery roots actually being seen JUST as people are finally becoming educated about the horror of it all. A delicate situation considering humans usually start getting restless just when things are perceived to be improving but are seen as not improving fast enough. That is classic political science (Soviet economy began to improve in 1989 after 4-5 years of major intra elite infighting). This time around there are major players in the world who want to help the plane chug along for at least a while longer while they help themselves to some spare parts. We'll see how it holds up.